Introduction to "Parkinson's Gave Me Gratitude For..."
In this new series of articles entitled "Parkinson's Gave Me Gratitude For...", we explore how chronic illness can, ironically, help one to pause, stop and think and reflect. Such diseases can force us to take time out from other modern sicknesses: a sense of constant urgency; rushing around from one crisis to another; hectic, stress filled working lives, and to learn instead to appreciate and understand the things which are, actually, important for our emotional wellness. In an odd sense, acute physical illness can force us to confront (and in doing so, heal) our mental and emotional health issues. It invites us to reconsider, and with new understandings, to change, to evolve and to grow as more spiritual, gentler beings.
Part 1: Family
I'm really proud of my brother. Two boys born less than twelve months apart, at the dawning and waning of the very same year in fact, could not be more poles apart, cats-and-dog different.
I was an introverted creature, studious, low energy, extremely academic. Dave is a vital animal, outgoing, high energy and, whilst having an animistic wisdom, left school at 16 with barely a qualification to his name. A "pass" in Rural Studies, if I remember correctly.
Dave strived hard to be independent, and had got the mortgage for his first house by his early twenties. He worked in a tropical fish shop, as a simple shop assistant on a low wage, but knew what he wanted and set out to get it. I went on to sixth form and then University. I studied for two degrees, never knew what I wanted to do and did not get my first job until 24. I fell into an academic career.
Dave has stayed in Northamptonshire most of his life, with just a brief aborted sojourn in Spain. I left home at 18, travelled the world, moved around a lot. For more than half my lifetime, Northampton has been a distant memory.
My love was for science, engineering and mathematics, I spent most of my time in the inner spaces of my mind. Dave's love is animals, nature and the natural world. He is an outdoors man, in every sense of the word.
I have changed, become altered, separated from my past selves, who I look back on with a tinge of disdain, on the rare occasions I care to glance back. I became self-confident, brash, arrogant and sure of myself in my career. I took no prisoners in my Science. I was good. Very, very good. My career became my life. Others around me suffered in my dogged pursuit of excellence.
Dave, needing more money to finance his natural pursuits, started working for a local printer. He worked hard, by all accounts he was very, very good too. It did not fulfill him. His job was merely a means to end. Dave has essentially remained himself, remained true to his core, is still in essence the young man who I left at 18 and barely saw for many years. He is now more mature, more worldly wise, kinder. But still the avatar of himself. A force of nature.
My career was cut short by Parkinson's Disease. I lost my Great Love, my life's pursuit and have had to grieve. To change and adapt, to evolve once again or perish. I'm currently lost, at sea, not sure what to do or what I am capable of. Yet Dave has found his Calling, in his family and his career. Very bravely, he formed his own business, Raptorxotics. He has squared his own circle and now his animals, family and work are one.
And he is very, very good.
This article also forms part of my book "Out-Thinking For Life: Lessons Learned in the Crucible of a Chronic Illness".